Revolutionizing the Coffee

Industry, But How?

The coffee industry: what is the problem?

Coffee beans like to grow in very specific conditions; mostly tropical or warm environments with annual temperatures of 18-22°C, no frost, lots of water and sunshine but not under direct sunlight. Your favorite bean(s) likely comes from Southern or Central America, the Caribbean, Africa or Asia – all extremely temperate or tropical climates, dynamic and biodiverse in nature.

Over time, due to society’s consumption habits, the demand for coffee has grown tremendously. Coffee producers respond by increasing production which results in a large amount of coffee farms cultivating coffee at a large-scale, growing varieties of coffee beans that are more tolerant to the sun, heavy rain and high temperatures. These farms, known as monoculture systems (meaning they only grow one type of crop) cause a tremendous negative impact. Not only do they cause a decrease in biodiversity, but also pests and diseases begin to grow resilience. This causes farmers to use heavy fertilisers and chemicals to protect the beans. It has become a cycle of negative impact which also puts local farmers at more risk from the increasing pressures of climate change if they stick to the status quo.

Large scale farmers prefer monoculture systems because they produce high yields and high profits, however it’s clear that these farms cannot easily deal with looming risks. The bottom line is that both small and large scale farmers depend on a successful coffee harvest for their livelihoods. 

A solution is required to understand how to cultivate coffee that is resilient to climate risks, continues to produce high-quality yield for a delicious cup of specialty coffee, and supports the livelihoods of farmers year-round.

We believe the solution is already here – many know it as permaculture, the revolutionary & timeless way to manage land & resources.

Permaculture: What is it?

Permaculture is not one specific process, it is a mindset. The word stems from the combination of “permanent” and “culture”, coined by the Australians David Holmgren and Bill Mollison.

Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, which destroys ecosystems for the purpose of mass-growing crops and leads species to extinction. Permaculture can radically change the agriculture industry, all it takes is going back through our human history, learning from our ancestors, to understand how to work with nature, rather than against it.

Permaculture is a holistic approach to manage land and resources, to create circular systems, where the relations between land and people promote the health and wellbeing of present and future generations. It is a design methodology, which makes use of many different agricultural techniques and methods from our ancestral past and present technologies. To create the perfect conditions for the coffee bean, many small-scale producers are turning to the methods of permaculture to build steady crop production, improve biodiversity and strengthen their own livelihoods. Permaculture is based on three ethical principles: Care for the Earth, Care for the People, and Fair Share.

Design techniques and methods include agroforestry, abolition of pesticides, natural conservation, zero waste, diversification of crops and species, use of renewable energy and resources and many more. In the context of coffee beans, the principles & design methodologies of permaculture contribute to the long-term security of land, people and profits along the entire supply chain.

So, now that we understand what permaculture is and why it is used, how does it affect the coffee industry as a whole?

How can permaculture change the coffee industry?

The three ethics of permaculture, Care for Earth, Care for People, and Fair Share, create purposeful connections between land, people and profit. With the threat of climate change all three are at risk. By using permaculture principles farmers take care of the planet in ways that have been largely ignored by the large players in the coffee industry. In the past, most farmers focused entirely on yield and profit; now both small- and large-scale farmers face the same risks, and they must all adapt to the times. In an industry where coffee prices in the supermarket do not always accurately reflect the labour and resources used in the supply chain, permaculture sets the stage for new business decisions which farmers can employ to strengthen their small businesses. One example is how farmers can grow multiple different crops that support the coffee bean, creating new revenue streams and maintaining healthy and nutrient-rich lands all year-round.

Just like the specialty-coffee industry, producers of permaculture-grown coffee are able to sell their coffee at a premium price to promote these sustainable practices within these polluting industries. As consumers, you also play a role by making the conscious choice to support sustainable agricultural practices and a fair supply chain with the products you buy and drink. This permaculture mindset can put the coffee industry (and even the entire agriculture industry) on the right path towards protecting both nature and humans in the face of looming risks of climate change.

Permaculture is creating the conditions for change, and at Viva Clandestino we consider that revolutionary.